Water Shortage Affects the Water and Nitrogen Balance in Central European Beech Forests

Authors

  • A. Geβler,

    Corresponding author
    1. Chair of Tree Physiology, Institute of Forest Botany and Tree Physiology, Albert Ludwigs University of Freiburg, Freiburg, Germany
      Chair of Tree Physiology Institute of Forest Botany and Tree Physiology Albert Ludwigs University of Freiburg Georges-Köhler-Allee, Gebäude 053/054 79110 Freiburg Germany E-mail: arthur.gessler@sonne.uni-freiburg.de
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  • C. Keitel,

    1. Chair of Tree Physiology, Institute of Forest Botany and Tree Physiology, Albert Ludwigs University of Freiburg, Freiburg, Germany
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  • M. Nahm,

    1. Chair of Tree Physiology, Institute of Forest Botany and Tree Physiology, Albert Ludwigs University of Freiburg, Freiburg, Germany
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  • H. Rennenberg

    1. Chair of Tree Physiology, Institute of Forest Botany and Tree Physiology, Albert Ludwigs University of Freiburg, Freiburg, Germany
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Chair of Tree Physiology Institute of Forest Botany and Tree Physiology Albert Ludwigs University of Freiburg Georges-Köhler-Allee, Gebäude 053/054 79110 Freiburg Germany E-mail: arthur.gessler@sonne.uni-freiburg.de

Abstract

Abstract: Whilst forest policy promotes cultivation and regeneration of beech dominated forest ecosystems, beech itself is a highly drought sensitive tree species likely to suffer from the climatic conditions prognosticated for the current century. Taking advantage of model ecosystems with cool-moist and warm-dry local climate, the latter assumed to be representative for future climatic conditions, the effects of climate and silvicultural treatment (different thinning regimes) on water status, nitrogen balance and growth parameters of adult beech trees and beech regeneration in the understorey were assessed. In addition, validation experiments with beech seedlings were carried out under controlled conditions, mainly in order to assess the effect of drought on the competitive abilities of beech. As measures of water availability xylem flow, shoot water potential, stomatal conductance as well as δ13C and δ18O in different tissues (leaves, phloem, wood) were analysed. For the assessment of nitrogen balance we determined the uptake of inorganic nitrogen by the roots as well as total N content and soluble N compounds in different tissues of adult and young trees. Retrospective and current analysis of δ13C, growth and meteorological parameters revealed that beech growing under warm-dry climatic conditions were impaired in growth and water balance during periods with low rain-fall. Thinning affected water, N balance and growth mostly of young beech, but in a different way under different local climatic conditions. Under cool, moist conditions, representative for the current climatic and edaphic conditions in beech forests of Central Europe, thinning improves nutrient and water status consistent to published literature and long-term experience of forest practitioners. However, beech regeneration was impaired as a result of thinning at higher temperatures and under reduced water availability, as expected in future climate.

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